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Bookworms Beware: Hackers Launch Cyberattacks On Libraries Globally

This week in cybersecurity from the editors at Cybercrime Magazine

Developing story: Our libraries are under cyberattack

Sausalito, Calif. – May 15, 2024

Taylor Fox spent five years working at libraries before joining Cybercrime Magazine as a media coordinator. The former page and clerk dug up some interesting market data on a disturbing trend that is affecting bookworms across the world: Our libraries are under cyberattack.

Who’s hacked?

A cyberattack hit the British Library, the national library of the UK, late last year. A hacker gang posted around 500,000 files containing sensitive employee information on the dark web after the library refused to pay a $700,000 ransom. Nearly 1.4 million individuals used the library in 2023, and any one of them with an account, computer usage history, or connection to the WiFi network was potentially compromised.

Fox’s victim tally includes the Library of Congress (who escaped unscathed), the Toronto Public Library, the Solana County, Calif. Public Library, the British Columbia Library in Canada, and far too many others to list here.

How many libraries are at risk?

There are more than 123,600 libraries of all kinds in the U.S., according to the American Library Association. 17,300 of them are public libraries. The International Federation of Libraries put the number of libraries worldwide at around 2.8 million.

Just books?

OverDrive reported that 2023 was a record-breaking year for digital library circulation, with a 19 percent increase in library checkouts of digital media over 2022. In all, library users worldwide borrowed some 662 million e-books, digital audiobooks, and digital magazines. These services come to a screeching halt when a library suffers a cyber intrusion.

In today’s digital age, libraries are one of the only remaining free public resources, offering books and essential services such as internet access and various community programs. As a result, they are often havens for job seekers, students, and those without internet access at home, making the threat of a cyberattack all the more devastating.

Now what?

Heather Engel, managing partner at Strategic Cyber Partners and a Cybercrime Magazine Podcast host, notes that many libraries simply don’t have the (financial) resources for comprehensive IT security. Just this week the City of St. Helena, Calif. suffered a cyberattack that forced officials to shut down the city’s computer systems and public library as a cautionary measure.

This is a developing story.

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